Red blood cell zinc levels vary linearly with age within each sex. Age- and sex-adjusted zinc levels generated 6 familial correlations in nuclear families and twins. A simple additive polygenic model, with genetic heritability of zinc (h2) as the only unknown parameter, gave an excellent fit (χ52 = 0.97, p > 0.96), with the corresponding estimate of h2 = 0.790 ± 0.032. Commingling analysis supported the hypothesis that the logarithmic zinc values are approximately distributed according to a mixture of three normal distributions. Some support was found for a major gene hypothesis by complex segregation analysis under the mixed model. However, all the evidence came just from one family in which one of the 3 children's zinc value was over 3 standard deviations above the mean. When that family was excluded, there was no more evidence for a major gene. Under the most parsimonious multifactorial model that assumes equal heritabilities in children and adults, the heritability was estimated as 0.748 ± 0.079, in good agreement with the outcome of path analysis. Biological interpretations are put forward and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-318
Number of pages8
JournalHuman heredity
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1983


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